Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Reservation to the Policy

In a minor deviation from the domains of fantasy and the going-ons of my life that occupy my blog space, today I write about the recent developments on reservation. It is fairly serious stuff so I can only offer my apologies to those looking forward to a bit of fun. Also it is going to be very, very long.

My initial reaction on hearing of the move to reserve 27 per cent of seats in institutes of higher education for “Other Backward Classes” was one of disbelief. I was instantly reminded of the year when I for the first and only time in m life taken to the streets to protest against Mandal v 1.00. The year was 1991. I was 13, outraged, affected and endangered by the “developments”. Of course since then things have changed. I am a lot more inert, lackadaisical. My second thought was even if they get through how will they ever manage to clear Quantitative Techniques-1. Nothing matters much, nothing much matters.

This time around however, I realized that my initial reaction had been stupid, and out of place of a man turning thirty later this year. But that later. I am not here to write about the (de)merits of the issue. Enough is going to be said, and some very compelling arguments are likely to be put forth by both sides. First, I shall just write a couple of personal experiences.

I personally know only three persons who availed of the reserved seats and managed to complete their education in a single attempt. And that speaks a lot for a man of 29. None of them were deprived by any means. The first, son of a senior Delhi bureaucrat, joined IIT, D in Computer Engineering. While the temptation must have been great, he realized that he by no means could compete with the demi-gods who populated the benches of that class and within a month quit to join the same course in DCE. Nevertheless, he was smart and broadly intelligent and now works for a top US firm and lives happily with an American wife in Northern California. The second was the son of my Dad’s tribal colleague, who had lived in Delhi all his life. Joined Chemical Engineering in IIT D, went on to work on a Schlumberger oil rig somewhere in the Persian Gulf. The third was an exceptionally bright classmate of mine from my crème-d-la crème public school, who refused to take any chances, produced a fake certificate from her native village collector in Assam, went to IIT D again, and then IIM A and now sells soap in a top-tier FMCG firm. I neither went to IIT D or IIM A and I have nothing against the three. They did well for themselves, and so did I in my own meager ways. I wish them well.

There are those who argue that the reason why most quota students don’t do well in higher education is because the curriculum is in English- a language of the elite in our country, and thus a natural advantage to the general category. For such arguments I shall offer another personal experience. I went to an engineering college in a village in Gujarat with an extremely vernacular set of students. The curriculum was in English and hugely technical at that. I got straight As in all courses that year as the rest of the class spent their time translating class notes to Gujarati. However, the tables were turned very soon, as the rest of the diligent Gujarati class picked up the language through the dint of their hard work. My advantage disappeared and so did my rank. Somehow, I finished second at the end of four years, way behind a guy who had never studied English before he came here, and marginally ahead of another such girl. But I should mention that not one of the guitar swinging, Floyd chanting tribal students managed to get past their first semester courses. Soon they joined the ranks of academic outlaws for the rest of the years I spent there.

But today when I see this subject being discussed on TV in talk shows, I see certain things that I didn’t back then in 199- probably only because my stakes in the matter are much lower. At least, till the same applies to jobs in the private sector. I see the reactions of a predominantly “upper caste” audience to their minority counterparts and am filled with solid self-doubt. We as a generation were taught about India’s glorious history for years at a stretch. We were fed with the greatness of our kings, emperors and freedom fighters. They were stories of valour, greatness, of sacrifice and filled us with pride. The caste system appeared only as a footnote in a boring Civics textbook, and at a time by when we were already heady with our bubbly past. In the college years we were fed with pipe dreams of the Wild West, of a student visa, a Scholarship, and of GRE and GMAT, and dollar salaries after all that.

More recently, we’ve had everyone and their mother telling us the India Shining story. With well-padded pockets, fast cars and air-conditioned homes, who in their right minds has the time to ponder upon issues such as social inequality and injustice- about that footnote from the yesteryears? We were too busy digging our fingers in the sacks of gold, and to spend the money on things we didn’t need fuelled by ads we didn’t really see. About three years back, I cancelled my subscription to the Economic and Political Weekly – my only link to the grass root social reality of the country and with it vanished whatever little remained of my social conscience.

Given this context it is understandable that today’s urban youth considers a move such as this merely divisive and regressive (I don’t entirely disagree with). Unfortunately, its not quite as simple. It is really something else. A decade of arguably superficial prosperity cannot wipe away a millennium of old social framework. Today’s urban and to an extent rural opulence to a great extent serves to distract from India’s dismal political performance. At some point of time, we have to stop looking the other way (yes, yes) and pay up for the actions of generations gone by. The social deprivation, which has been consolidated for a thousand years, cannot be wished away just that like that. Yes, we have established great institutions of learning and industry. Yes, we have at least on paper enforced land reform- actually the implementation bit is true only of West Bengal. Yes, we have great socio-economic reform projects sanctioned. But there remains the implementation dilemma- the problem of access. Reservation is often argued with meritocracy but when 99 per cent of the people who clear the JEE have been to coaching classes to reach there, one must spare a thought for those who have no wherewithal to pay up school fees. One wonders whether they’ll ever be able to cough up the dough for FIITJEE and IMS. Will Dr. Bansal of Kota make an exception for even his own gardener’s son? Which brings me to my next point. That of who are really Backward Class and the entire economic aspect of the issue.

My Mum teaches in a state-run school in New Delhi. Most of her students are extremely poor, not being able to afford even the token two rupees a month school fees. Children of Dhobis, gardeners, rickshaw pullers, vegetable vendors, sweepers and scavengers- the lot. Most of whom are sent to school for the free meals and the wool for the sweaters given once a year. I have never attended any of her classes but given that she was the one responsible our tutelage at home (public school unlike public health is a fun experience); and since me and my sister (a gold medallist onco-surgeon) turned out quite nicely; and since my parents come from the compassionate, hard-working, honest stock I can only assume that she spares no effort at that school. But recently all sixty students in one of her classes failed, among other subjects in mathematics- something my Mum ensured that we took seriously and were good at.

In the witch-hunt that ensued, my very stressed and upset mother insisted that she had no hope in hell to fight the system which sends a child from a school to the nearest scavenging dump or to a far away subzi-mandi. The kind, which misses school for a month to do the housework as their malnourished mother, recovers slowly from her seventh childbirth in a dysfunctional public hospital. Who only gets one meal a day, the one given for free at school. Who has no electricity, and whose father comes home drunk and ensures that there is absolutely no environment or motivation for homework. If this is the situation in the capital of the country, I dread to think about what things must be like elsewhere.

The limited point that I am trying to make in this overtly verbose post is that reservation is hardly the panacea to entangle the mess of our social fabric that any way predates the Dark Ages. However, it definitely is the one that creates maximum electoral impact. It is at best a sexy headline, with no content to back it up. Which is probably why even after close to sixty years of having intensive reservation the poor and the backward remain just where they were- in the dumps. And of course while all other social reform measures are expensive, there need not be any additional budgetary allocation towards reservation. So while such a move serves the purpose of grabbing headlines and votes, the entire political and bureaucratic system can continue lining their pockets from the lavish spend on other irrational social schemes that are supposed to serve to eliminate this inequality. Of course I do have this debatable notion that a long-term solution to India’s caste system fuelled social inequality does not augur well for the future of Indian polity. It basically takes the piss out of the whole thing. Really, I see little future of a resolution if it is left to politicians to sort out this mess. Small question- why doesn’t someone shoot all our politicians in the gut? Social reform is long overdue in our country and will probably remain that way in my lifetime. Especially, because more than anything else caste and inequality have assumed in our country huge political contours.

Nearly fifteen years back I had taken the streets on this matter. I am not sure I would do it again. Today a large OBC section of the audience in an NDTV talk show walked out threatening to settle matters in the streets. Even more worrisome is that one prominent caste leader called Whatsizname, speaks of doing the same thing on national TV- and I see a divide coming up, in our schools, in our colleges and in our workplaces. Perhaps a civil war. But I guess in the end everyone will just get over it and the unreserved category will just work twice as hard, or leave the country and seek fortunes abroad. I will also soon switch channels to watch the Man United and Arsenal game. Man U will go on to win that 2-0. I will forget and so will NDTV and resume their near 24-hour coverage of the Lakme Fashion Week instead. Who cares? After all “Yahan pe toh sab chalta hai- char ke seat mein chhai log baith jayenge. Yeh toh apne khoon mein hain. Thoda aur adjust kar lenge!”


At 12:17 PM, Blogger dazedandconfused said...

Couldn't agree more with you on this. I have written my two penny thoughts too on this on my blog. You could also probably check out for a more animated debate.

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Anonym said...

I agree, completely. A level playing field is very important. But reservations are not the best way to go about it. A very complex issue, it deserves a solution better than what is proposed. But it's good to see so many people discuss this issue. Read your post at ease today and found myself agreeing with most things.

So T.O, I suppose Man Utd did win 2-0 against Arsenal (though one mustn't underestimate Arsenal so much, esp after it defeated Real Madrid), but I am sure that would be no reason to let this issue pass. Who cares???…We all do!

At 1:28 PM, Blogger shikha said...

Wonder what will happen to this country a decade from now,when these people will be educated!Imagine....that before we go to the doctor, we just might need to check his surname:-)

At 11:35 PM, Blogger dazedandconfused said...

@shikha: these people?! :)

At 8:26 PM, Blogger obc voice said...

'But reservations are not the best way to go about it. A very complex issue, it deserves a solution better than what is proposed.'
Agree with you that reservations are not the best way.. we've been told that in the seventies, the eighties ..and now.
As you ponder what is the best solution, 'these people'(as shikha said) have decided they'll take whatever is their due.. whether you agree or not.

At 11:13 PM, Blogger Anonym said...

Dear obc voice,

I am not sure what shikha meant, but I think I’d like to elaborate a bit more. My sincere apologies to T.O, this might be long.

Let me begin with the four varnas, which really forms the basis of our present caste system. Ancient India (remember CBSE history) was divided into four varnas according to occupation, which was not hereditary at that time. These were Brahmins who performed ritualistic activities and studied the vedas, Kshatriyas who were really the protectors, Vaisya who were basically businessmen and shudras, who were normally the agricultural laborers and the artisans. Later on, these classes became rigid and hereditary. And by the eighteenth and nineteenth century the shudras and harijans started being looked down upon and discriminated upon. There are differences between each jati within a caste too. It is a bit confusing. For example, the washermen were called dhobi, which is a jati in the caste shudra. They were untouchables. There are some jatis in vaisya who claim to be as high as the Brahmins.

Did you know not long back, the lower caste women in certain districts of Andhra were not allowed to cover their body waist up? I just got to know it in one of my classes and couldn’t imagine what that would be like. I wonder how it would feel like when people refuse to share the same room with you or eat with you and sometimes refuse to even let your shadow fall upon them. Anyways what I was trying to tell, is that the caste system is very complex and can never be explained in two lines in any civics text book. More than that, the so-called upper castes haven’t exactly been very benevolent to the other castes. In fact, unlike what most people believe, the caste system is really important, especially since it occupies a significant part of our life. To wish it away will not solve any of our problems. It exists, and hence one needs to deal with it.

I'd like to point out that there’s a difference between backward classes and lower classes. When we talk about backward, are we speaking of economically backward or in terms of social status? Most often socially backward classes are taken as a proxy for economic backwardness. And statistically speaking, that might not be incorrect. After all, the tribals are poor people in general. However, there are examples of the rich lower caste people taking advantage of the quota system that one gets to hear every now and then. When shikha speaks of incompetent doctors, she is not completely wrong. After all, would you prefer to go to a well-qualified doctor from AIIMS or a doctor who managed to get into MBBS through means other than merit? Would you trust him just as much? Of course, this doesn’t imply that everyone who got through reservations is incompetent. But then health is not something one can play around with.

One needs to be tolerant.But reservations cannot solve anyone's problem. It’ll create far greater problems than it sets out to solve. Our aim should be to create an environment of equal opportunities and I think we should start with free education rather than reservations at higher level (where stakes are so high). Primary education is already free and achievement of literacy at the primary level is one of the millennium development goals. But T.O is very right, implementation is a big problem. If the problem could be dealt with at the school level, it’ll be a lot more effective.

I think I had once read how the government of Singapore tried to do just that, when it faced clashes between the native Malay, Indians and the dominant Chinese population. In sharp contrast to neighboring Malaysia with its policies of affirmative action for the Malay majority, Singapore's government insisted that no ethnic group would receive special treatment and that all citizens had equal rights and equal opportunities. Malay population too faced problems like poor command of English, limited availability of secondary and postsecondary education in Malay. Gradually the loss of public-sector jobs accounted for much of the low economic position of the Malay community in 1980. In 1981 Malay community leaders, alarmed by the results of the 1980 census that demonstrated the concentration of Malays in the lower reaches of the occupational hierarchy, formed a foundation called Mendaki.

Mendaki (ascent in Malay), devoted itself to providing remedial tuition classes for Malay children in primary and secondary school, offering scholarships for living expenses and loans for higher education, attempting to encourage parents to take a more active role in their children's education, and holding public ceremonies to honor Malay students who excelled in examinations or graduated from academic secondary schools or universities. Government support was also extended to Mendaki and it soon became very popular. Throughout the 1980s, both the number of Malay students in selective secondary schools and institutions of higher education and the proportion of Malays passing and scoring well on standardized examinations slowly increased. There were other programmes that aimed at housing; health and education for the various communities that helped bring them together.

Now, agreed that conditions are very different in India as compared to Singapore. But the problem is essentially the same. Every citizen is equal. Create a level playing field where every child has an equal chance and you won’t need reservations. That’s all I can think of. But is that such a bad idea?

And even if I were a dalit, I suppose I’d feel much better if I got the right kind of education (if the government really decides to work on it, it really shouldn’t be that difficult) and got the IIT seat basis my merit. There’d be no feeling like that…! Don’t you think so?

~ Anonym

At 3:11 AM, Blogger barbarindian said...

Great blog!

At 9:05 AM, Blogger shikha said...

dear dazedandconfused and all...must confess that i did not read the complete post before commenting on the same!

These people"the so called backward classes,who avail of such reservation policies and reach SOMEWHERE..."

I totally agree with T.O,when he says that the backward and the deprived classes are different!

At 12:24 PM, Blogger Anonym said...

Is T.O trying to say that these people are inately 'different'or is he saying that they have been treated differently? Hence they want affirmative action now in form of reservations. Which most of us think isn't the best solution, for various reasons.

Maybe T.O can clarify how a certain section of the population is 'different'...

At 7:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What "merit" are we talking of anyway ? Scores in entrance exams at age of 17?

The issue is not of reservation . It is of deservation !! For too long people from certain castes have been claiming certin priviledges as a divine right .So what has been reserved for so long now needs to be dereserved !!

Take the claim of "merit based" entrance to all IIMs, Mudra Insitute of Communication, Manipal
IMT, Ghaziabad
MDI, Gurgaon
Goa Institute of Management
Institute of Technology and Management (multiple locations all over India).
Institute of Management Development & Research, Pune

The CAT exam is based on the SAT exam in the USA . It has been proved beyond doubt that the SAT test is culturally biased . Blacks and hispanics do poorly at it year after year .

If a student who is eligible for admission to IIM on the basis of his CAT score, were to take the same CAT exam in which he/she cleared in a language that he/she did not understand then he/she would be at a disadvantage compared to someone who was schooled in that language . Not knowing that language does not mean you lack the capacity to clear that exam.

Approximately 25 % of CAT test is about English! Another 25 % is about English Comprehension!!!! There you are !!!! About 50 % so called aptitude test is a hoax for someone who is from a non-english speaking background .

This is how the CAT like the SAT is discriminatory .

See the full form of SAT …Scholastic Aptitude Test . The problem is aptitude testing is not so simple . There is no test on earth which can reliably tests aptitude .

Aptitude tests such as the SAT have a historical tie to the concept of innate mental abilities and the belief that such abilities can be defined and meaningfully measured. Neither notion has been supported by modern research. Few scientists who have considered these matters seriously would argue that aptitude tests such as the SAT provide a true measure of intellectual abilities.

It was found that people could be coached to better their scores at SAT . The name SAT …Scholastic Aptitude Test could not be correct . So under such valid criticism the name was changed to Scholastic Assessment Test, since a test that can be coached clearly did not measure inherent "scholastic aptitude", but was influenced largely by what the test subject had learned in school. Even the College Board which conducts the SAT has beaten a hasty retreat.This was a major theoretical retreat by the College Board conducting SAT, which had previously maintained that the test measured inherent aptitude and was free of bias.

About ten years back , however, even the redundancy of the term assessment test was recognized and the name was changed to the neutral, and non-descriptive, SAT. At the time, the College Board announced, "Please note that SAT is not an initialism. It does not stand for anything."

The framers of these SAT tests assumed that intelligence was a unitary inherited attribute, that it was not subject to change over a lifetime, and that it could be measured and individuals could be ranked and assigned their place in society accordingly. The SAT evolved from these questionable assumptions about human talent and potential.

More and more people are questioning the validity of SAT . In the past MENSA used to accept high SAT score individuals . For the past decade it has stopped accepting SAT scores .

The whole exercise of deciding merit based on CAT scores discriminates against those from lower socio-economic status.

Though many non-IIM institutes have started accepting CAT scores, the application fee of these institutes is still inexplicably high.

The CAT is primarily an exam of Math and English. Logical and Analytical Reasoning is nearly absent (except for some verbal reasoning which again depends on knowing English well!!!!).

CAT is a clever way to keep those from lower socio-economic strata away Institutes funded with tax payers money .

So claims of “Merit” based on CAT scores is hollow and discriminatory against those of lower socio-economic strata.

Dhirubhai Ambani had a poor command over English . He would not have made it through CAT. So what "merit" are we talking of?

At 7:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bit more to add to strengthen my earlier post on CAT exam

My main point was that inherent aptitude/talent (INBORN MERIT) can’t be tested. What gets tested in a test like the CAT or SAT or any test is the person’s learning (ACQUIRED MERIT).

I am not saying this learning(ACQUIRED MERIT) is a bad thing and those who possess it needs to penalized by denying them an opportunity for furthering their education .I am saying lets stop pretending that we are measuring inherit aptitude/talent(INBORN MERIT) in these entrance examinations .

Once we accept that what we are measuring in CAT or the other entrance exams is something that has been learnt with effort often since childhood we also see that others who have not had the good fortune of such a childhood could also learn those very things if only with harder work in teens or adulthood . And a person who has learnt skills late in his life can be as competent as anyone. So some one with a poor score in an Entrance exam can acquire sufficient merit like any one else.

Rashmi Bansal of IIM Ahmedabad ,popular blogger , editor of an English youth magazine says in this article

“All students must learn English because it is a vital skill in the New Economy”

But even the Americans don’t think its going to enough in the “new economy” .

American President Bush thinks that learning Hindi and a few other foreign languages is a "critical need" for the US's national security and prosperity.,00050001.htm
In this article
That article quotes Former German chancellor Willy Brandt who said decades ago: "If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen" (or "Wenn ich zu Ihnen verkaufe, spreche ich Ihre Sprache. Wenn ich kaufe, then you must speak German"). People are much more likely to buy if they fully understand what it is you're trying to sell to them.

All successful business, like politics, is local - or should appear that way to the buyer. The right language is the first step in becoming a local hero says the same article .

The importance of my earlier post goes beyond the caste reservation issue.

English is NOT the language spoken and understood by majority of the population worldwide!!!!!!!

The Summer Institute for Linguistics (SIL) Ethnologue Survey (1999) lists the following as the top languages by population:
(number of native speakers in parentheses)

Chinese (937,132,000)
Spanish (332,000,000)
English (322,000,000)
Bengali (189,000,000)
Hindi/Urdu (182,000,000)
Arabic (174,950,000)
Portuguese (170,000,000)
Russian (170,000,000)
Japanese (125,000,000)
German (98,000,000)
French (79,572,000)

The following list is from Dr. Bernard Comrie’s article for the Encarta Encyclopedia (1998):
(number of native speakers in parentheses)

Mandarin Chinese (836 million)
Hindi (333 million)
Spanish (332 million)
English (322 million)
Bengali (189 million)
Arabic (186 million)
Russian (170 million)
Portuguese (170 million)
Japanese (125 million)
German (98 million)
French (72 million)

How about being tested in these languages alongwith the Indian languages of each state ?.

The IAS used to be conducted only in English.Today in the IAS examination there is no discrimination between candidates who answer in Hindi or English or other regional languages.

The IIMs can learn something from how the IAS is conducted.

Let our management graduates eye new markets which are big and getting bigger including local ones.

Like I pointed out we have some serious competition from the no-nonsense Americans .They understand that one does not stay number one by being complacent .
If knowledge of International language is the reason why CAT is held in English then there are other International languages which also have a claim to be in the question paper. See how knowing Chinese or Japanese or Italian or French or German would be to an Indian business man. Just look at the size of the world trade of the countries I have just named . And also see the growing importance of Asian countries .

Lets raise the standard of the Entrance exam . Let do away with the English paper and bring in a multilingual language paper. Lets introduce other important foreign languages in the CAT examination . To gain a competitive edge it will introduce the genial joys of learning a foreign language to the members of the anglicized cosmopolitan community. Lets say the first ten most widely spoken language in the world be included as options in the entrance examination .

Quite a few Indian languages will figure in the examination questions on the basis if the sheer number size of their speakers . ( Bengali follows Hindi in sheer numbers, its spoken in Bangladesh as well Bengal ) But lets consider all India state based languages equally . It will drastically cut down but not eliminate the importance of English . A person who knows more than one language will get rewarded.

If the answers are standardized then correction could also be easier .

It may also inspire our professors to learn newer international languages so that the immense research material in say Japanese management or French management becomes available to our budding management wizards . When our professors struggle with the Chinese script it will help them empathize with the struggle of a student who is struggling with English .

Lets further raise the standards of the entrance examination !!!Along with Maths lets also have a paper on Humanities . After all 90% of a managers success depends on handling people. So instead of promoting anglicized number crunching geeks who are blind to local and global social realities lets promote a more socially aware manager . Most corporates nowadays have larger social aims in their mission statements . They will love students who are conscious of social realities within and without the country .Let there be a compulsory section on “Community”, “social capital”. You can’t understand concepts of “Caste”, “social justice” without studying these terms .

It will bring down the ridiculous percentiles because the standards of the entrance would have gone up . .

What I have suggested is complicated and I am sure can be improved upon . But where there is a will for merit and fair play there will be a way for merit and fair play .

What has been done in IAS examinations can be done in IIM.The IAS used to be conducted only in English.Today in the IAS examination there is no discrimination between candidates who answer in Hindi or English or other regional languages.

Both can coexists . Innovation should not be just a management buzz word !!

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man is a social animal . And he forms communities to work with , marry ,socialise .

In the pre-agricultural economy of forest ,communities are tribes .
In agricultural economies of village, communities are the traditional castes (like you see in India) . Perfect conditions in agricuture through history made castes a widely practiced phenomenon in the subcontinent . Even religious conversion has failed to remove the caste system .Caste clearly follows a different dynamic which has nothing to do with religion .
In industrial economies of city based, communities are a new “cosmopolitan caste”.

These three kinds of economies 1) tribal ,2) village(traditional caste) and 3)city (cosmopolitan caste) have fashioned the modern nation as it exists today .Most modern nations are have come into existence during the Industrial revolution .

Modern nations all over the world have had to grapple with the problem of how to assimilate those left behind in the forests and villages in pre-agricultural or agricultural economies . In India due to poor economy growth the problems are vastly more acute .

We cannot wish away the existence of these pre-agricultural tribes or agricutural castes and exclude them from our industrial cosmopolitan caste.

Forest covers are disappearing. The very habitat of the tribal in endangered .

And its tough to compete with the developed countries Industrial technology based agriculture with India’s traditional pre-industrial agriculture . Take for example today 57 of the Indian population is engaged in non- machine aided agrarian activities, this translates into an Indian food worker producing enough food for himself and a surplus for another Indian.We are still importing food from time to time. Contrast this to US, where less than two percent of American population is engaged in machine aided agriculture or related activities. An American farmer produces enough food for 50 people including himself, with even more left over for export. Therefore the American farmer is very productive and very rich by comparison.
Agriculture needs water. Water table is receding in India. Today 70 per cent of irrigation needs and 80 per cent of domestic water supplies in India are met through pumping up groundwater through tube wells. But this massively deployed private response to public failure can only be temporary. Water tables are plummeting and aquifers are running dry. Estimates show that 15 per cent of aquifers are already critical and the number is projected to rise to 60 per cent in just twenty years .
For more read

With each passing generation inherits ,the share of the agricultural land of each subsequent generation becomes less and less . When each person has a very small plot of land you cannot have advantages of scale .

Traditional means of incomes are drying up in forests and villages .

Farmers have been commiting suicide . Naxalites philosophies are attracting a greater following in some jungles. Situation is grim . There remains a large part of population simply unequipped with skill set required to compete in the industrial/service world . We have a tragedy of enormous proportions staring in our face .

Castes are a form of social stratification from the agriculture economy era . Some castes have been able to make the shift to industrial economy to become a member of the new cosmopolitan caste to a greater extent than others .

Castes in India are endogamous . Majority of indians still marry within their castes .The sense of traditional caste is weak for the new cosmopolitan castes in urban Indians as they work in industries in these cities .In their case a more cosmopolitan anglacised sense of community has replaced the pre-industrial traditional caste system. This is simply the industrial version of the traditional caste system .Members of this new cosmopolitan caste also practice endogamy . They marry their own kind . And prefer to work ,live and socialise with their own kind . It is an unacknowledged caste in the sense they see themselves above the caste system . “Caste no bar” if you belong to this cosmopolitan caste . Looking through the matrimonial advertisements in news papers or surf through matrimonial sites on the web . You will see right away that those who consider themselves diehard cosmopolitan is miniscule .Most people still retain that weak link to the traditional caste system when it comes to important decisions like marriage .

What needs to be kept in mind that people prefer to work with their own castes . For example for his medical needs someone from the cosmopolitan caste is not likely to see a general practioner who has poor english skills. In the same way someone who is a say from a tribal village is unlikely to be comfortable with a general practioner who is a english speaking westernised dandy. Where possible people go to physicians who they consider as one of their own, some one who speak their language and understand their lifestyle .

You see this same division in private sector as well. If you are corporate entity and your company has predominantly members from the Cosmopolitan caste you are likely to reject someone who does not seem to reflect your cosmopolitan culture,especially for the important high profile,high visibilty appointments . Companies call this “cultural fit”.

Will Azimbhai Premji announce that the next owner of Wipro will not be his son? Will he make that decision on merit ? Why did Ratan Tata succeed Bharat Ratna JRD Tata ? Was he the most accomplished person in the Tata empire ? So you see the cosmopolitan caste reserves the topmost creamy posts to one of their own in a very similar way like the traditional caste system .These posts are very much “Reserved” . If the english speaking members of the cosmopolitan caste fails entrance exams , group discussion, interviews all of which are often conducted in English , then there are always management quotas ,governing body quotas ,NRI quotas ,paid seats within India or paid seats abroad all of which can be accessed with money or influence .

Owners or management recruiters from each caste almost always recruit people from their own castes .Some one of their own kind . If you do not have enough members of your own caste as recruiters whether it is government or private jobs the entry points into the industrial economy drastically come down. Each caste has its ‘Creamy’ layer .Some castes have very thick layers of cream . Some castes have a thinner layer compared to their size. Thick or thin…. this creamy layer is its entry point into the industrial world .

This problem is by no means peculiar to India .What is different is the sheer magnitude of the problem .

Governments all over the world use “affirmative action” to remedy this serious problem.

Reservations and quotas are a form of Affirmative action.

What is affirmative action ?
Affirmative action is a policy or a program aimed at increasing the representation of members of groups that have traditionally been discriminated against. This typically focuses on education,employment, government contracts ,health care or social welfare.

Just look at how it is practiced in the following countries :

American President Lyndon Johnson said "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line in a race and then say, 'you are free to compete with all the others', and still justly believe that you have been completely fair."

In USA : American President Lyndon Johnson brought in affirmative action by an “excecutive order” . The order aims "to correct the effects of past and present discrimination".

The order specifically requires certain organizations accepting federal funds to take affirmative action to increase employment of members of preferred racial or ethnic groups and women. Any organization with fifty or more employees and an aggregate revenue exceeding $50,000 from a single federal contract during a twelve month period must have a written affirmative action plan. This plan must include goals and timetables for achieving full utilization of women and members of racial minorities, in quotas based on an analysis of the current workforce compared to the availability in the general labor pool of women and members of racial minorities.

Regarding Native Americans there are today more than 563 federally recognized tribal governments in the United States. The United States recognizes the right of these tribes to self-government and supports their tribal sovereignty and self-determination. These tribes possess the right to form their own government, to enforce laws (both civil and criminal), to tax, to establish membership, to license and regulate activities, to zone and to exclude persons from tribal territories. The recognition confers benefits, including the right to label arts and crafts as Native American and they can apply for grants that are specifically reserved for Native Americans.

In Japan : there is an informal policy to provide employment and long term welfare (which is usually not available to general public) to Burakumin (untouchables).

In Brazil :Brazilian Universities (State or Federal) have created systems of preferred admissions (quotas) for racial minorities (blacks and native Brazilians), the poor and the handicapped. There are also quotas for the disabled in the civil public services.

In Malaysia :there are laws called bumiputra laws which are a form of affirmative action meant to provide more opportunity for the majority ethnic Malay population versus the historical financial dominance of the Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indian populations.

In New Zealand :individuals of Maori or other Polynesian descent are often afforded preferential access to university courses, and scholarships.

In South Africa : there is a the Employment Equity Act aims to promote and achieve equity in the workplace, by encouraging equal opportunity amongst all workers. It includes efforts to identify reasons for inequalities and change the employment rates of previously underrepresented groups for a more equitable job market.

In UK: according to the Good Friday Agreement the law requires that the Police Service of Northern Ireland recruit equal numbers of Catholics and non Catholics.

In Indonesia: affirmative action programs give natives preference over Han Chinese who have immigrated into the country.

In Macedonia :minorities, most notably Albanians, are allocated quotas for access to state universities, as well as in civil public services.

In China : there is a quota for minority representatives in the National Assembly in Beijing, as well as other realms of government.

In the European Union: there is an antiracism directive which concerns the application of the principle of equality without regard to race or ethnic origin. This anti-racism directive, is to be implemented in national law of the member states.

In Germany :there are programs stating that if men and women had equal qualifications, women had to be preferred for a job. The anti-discrimination law which is yet to pass, aims at improving the protection of minorities.

Belgium government :proposed in January 2006 a measure that will make some job opportunities available exclusively to immigrants, disabled and elderly people.

Much of the developed world does believe that social justice can be done by reservation/quotas for those that are discriminated against.

Dalit issues of India have already been linked with human rights issue in International forum like the UN .

To repeat what past American President Lyndon Johnson said "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line in a race and then say, 'you are free to compete with all the others', and still justly believe that you have been completely fair."

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